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Nearly one of every four soldiers engaged was a casualty: killed, wounded, or captured. The savage fighting would be remembered by many who were there as the most intense of the war. If there were any among the troops who still thought of war as a glorious, noble undertaking, this battle would shatter that illusion.


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For the men of both armies, the American Civil War was now an all-out, life or death struggle. For the North, the battle near Antietam Creek "saved" the nation. The Confederate invasion was turned away, so the immediate threat was past. In the process, the Federal Army of the Potomac AOP had shown itself to be a fine fighting force, especially after it's poor showing in the previous months' campaigning.

It had not been demoralized as was feared after the Second Battle of Bull Run, and had in many instances at Antietam proved in bravery and skill to be the equal of any army, anywhere. Although the battle was not a clear victory for either side, the forces of the Union had much to feel good about. Robert E.

Civil War Geology

Lee 's Army of Northern Virginia ANV had also fought extremely well, particularly considering its weakened state and smaller numbers. Many consider that Lee's leadership at the battle was the best of his career; he himself indicated as much after the war. While he could rightly claim a "moral" victory because he still held his position the day after the battle, he did not achieve his larger goal of seriously hurting the Federal Army, and the Maryland Campaign did little to advance the cause of Southern Independence after all. Another short-term effect of the battle was the final end to President Lincoln's patience with his top General.

Because McClellan was not prepared to pursue the ANV for some six weeks after the battle, when prompted repeatedly, Lincoln "fired" him. McClellan then retired to his home in New Jersey to wait for the call to command again, which never came.

The Battle of Antietam (September 17, ) - History

Lincoln appointed Ambrose Burnside to relieve McClellan in command of the AOP, but Burnside was just the next of the several failures in that position. McClellan had built the AOP into a superb force, and his troops adored him, but he didn't exhibit the killer instinct or drive that would have been needed to win the war for the Union in It is interesting to speculate on how he might have acted differently, and "crushed" the scattered parts of the ANV one at a time.

Instead, Lee was able to complete the capture of Harpers Ferry and gather his army at Sharpsburg before McClellan brought his army to bear. See more about Lee's Special Orders No.

Battle Of Antietam Casualties

Once at Sharpsburg late on the 15th, McClellan probably lost an opportunity by not attacking Lee immediately, though he would have had to attack without knowing his enemy's strength and position. Lee's forces were not concentrated fully until early on the 17th, when the last except for A. This gave Lee time to move his men to the hot spots as needed without worrying too much about the rest of his line. Further, McClellan failed to "follow success" on the field by not committing his reserves where just "one more push" might have broken the Confederate position. It's fair, however, to consider that it's only in hindsight that we know just how bare was Lee's Center by mid-day on the 17th, where little more than a few batteries of artillery stood to face the Federals once the Sunken Road position was lost.

McClellan was more concerned about protecting Washington and his army from a feared but non-existant Rebel counterattack than destroying the enemy. McClellan kept about one third of the AOP, about 30, men, in reserve that day and the next.


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  5. On September 18th, the Union lost another chance. Instead of retreating, as perhaps he should have done, Lee stayed in his positions.

    American History: The Civil War and Reconstruction: Major Battles and Campaigns of the Civil War

    Despite having the numbers including about 30, fresh troops , with more on the way, McClellan decided not to renew the attack. Lee slipped back across the Potomac to Virginia that night and early the next morning largely unmolested. Except for a short bloody scrap at Shepherdstown, in which the Federals were repulsed, McClellan did not actively pursue Lee for nearly 6 weeks thereafter.

    Lee, too, suffered disappointment on the Maryland campaign. Except for the capture of a large quantity of stores, ordnance, and Union soldiers at Harpers Ferry, he did not have much to show for his efforts. He did hold the field after the battle, and did inflict more casualties than he took, but these were not really enough for the battle at Sharpsburg to be considered a Confederate victory.

    The Peninsula Campaign. Encyclopedia Virginia. The Significance of the Battle of Antietam. Antietam on the Web.

    Special Orders No. Why did Lee Enter Maryland? But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present.

    Guide to the Battle of Antietam

    The Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, , involved nearly , combatants, the largest concentration of troops in any Civil War battle. Ambrose Burnside, the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, had ordered his more than , troops to cross the Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in late The battles of Cold Harbor were two American Civil War engagements that took place about 10 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital.

    Robert E. Facing an enemy force nearly twice the size of his own, Lee daringly split his troops in two, Grant in the spring of In May , Confederate forces clashed with the advancing Union Army in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, which lasted for the better part of two weeks and included some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War. After an indecisive battle in the dense Virginia woods The victories forced the Confederates Also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, the Battle of Shiloh took place from April 6 to April 7, , and was one of the major early engagements of the American Civil War The battle began when the Confederates launched a surprise attack on Union forces under This Day In History.

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    The Stakes By mid-summer , President Abraham Lincoln had the Emancipation Proclamation —a document declaring freedom for all slaves in the so-called rebellious states—ready to go. Instead, Lee ordered his army to regroup at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg. Battle of Antietam Ends As night fell, thousands of bodies littered the sprawling Antietam battlefield and both sides regrouped and claimed their dead and wounded.

    First Battle of Bull Run. Battle of Shiloh. Battle of Chancellorsville. Battle of Fredericksburg. Battle of Fredericksburg The Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, , involved nearly , combatants, the largest concentration of troops in any Civil War battle. Battle of Spotsylvania Court House In May , Confederate forces clashed with the advancing Union Army in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, which lasted for the better part of two weeks and included some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War.